It used to be that starting your own business meant taking a good-sized chunk of risk.
Paying for an office space. Paying for inventory. Paying to get the word out. Maybe paying for help. Even if you had the money to fund the enterprise, well, sometimes it wasn’t that easy to get started.
And you really can’t go to school to become an entrepreneur; books and classes don’t make or break the success of launching your own enterprise. I know that, having started three businesses, the first of which was a financial dud. I learned a lot, but the tuition was steep. The risks and the difficulties of becoming your own boss are one reason why many people never take that first big step.
But maybe the real problem is that they can’t get it out of their heads that the step doesn’t have to be big at all. In fact, sometimes it’s better to make it tiny. I learned this lesson as an entrepreneur, and it’s one that my friend, Henneke Duistermaat, also knows intimately.
An infopreneur’s first (small) steps
In September 2012, Henneke held a respectable managerial position. She was paid well. She got decent benefits. But she just didn’t love it.
In a move that her peers might have described as part naiveté, part foolishness, and all lunacy — her tipping point — she unplugged from her career to become an infopreneur.
A what? An infopreneur starts a business to provide intellectual, often digital, products and services.
She found the most difficult thing was to get started — so she took her entrepreneurial journey one small step at a time. What were these first steps? Not registering a company. Not designing a logo, getting an office space, or building a website.
Henneke didn’t even begin by deciding on the product or service she would offer.
The first small step she took was deciding the niche that she wanted to focus on — copywriting. Her next tiny step was guest blogging to establish her street cred. And her third baby step was to set up a simple website for people who liked her guest posts to check out.
She offered website visitors a free starter course on copywriting. They could subscribe to receive copywriting tips every day for a week, then every few days for the rest of the month.
Then Henneke did something unusual. She chose to keep her email series simple — just plain old text. No fancy images, no fancy formatting. No frills, just solid copywriting tips. She also asked readers with questions to hit “reply” to the automated mails, promising to answer every email message. And reply she did (I can attest to that since that’s how she and I started conversing).
Henneke used this two-way conversation with her audience to:
- get copywriting gigs to make ends meet in the first year
- figure out that the way forward was to develop a complete copywriting course
- get inspired to write a few Kindle books
Freedom through automation
The best part? She’s automated her business, and travels the world when not planning her next project. Using technology to work smarter, faster and cheaper enables Henneke to follow her passion on multiple fronts.
Here’s the thing — this is something you can totally do.
It doesn’t matter if the niche you want to focus on is in fitness, fashion or fishing. The roadmap is the same: take a small step towards establishing yourself as an authoritative, likeable expert to a targeted audience by creating helpful, useful content.
Help them know, like, and trust you, and let them help you discover the kind of product or service they need.
The business of starting businesses has changed a great deal, and you now have the map and tools you need to take that next step. Just remember to make it a small one!